Good News For Modern Man

Grant Hart

Pachyderm Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


Grant Hart is back!

That is definitely good news to all Husker Du fans, especially since Hart's releases have been few and far between since Husker Du broke up in 1987. The question is whether his latest CD, Good News For Modern Man, is worth the wait. Well, for the most part, indeed it is. This is a very good CD, but it's not without its flaws.

For example, the CD starts out on a curious note. "Think It Over Now" is a catchy song reminiscent of the kind of songs Phil Spector used to write for girl groups in the sixties, except that it is given a grungy guitar treatment. The combination of these two contrasting styles just do not work well together in my opinion, making the song not as effective as it could be.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Much closer to the mark is the second song, "Nobody Rides For Free". This is much more assured and it displays Hart's strengths as a songwriter. The arrangement is heavy on piano and organ. The first song notwithstanding, Good News For Modern Man is very keyboard oriented giving the CD a vaguely eighties feel, and obviously not at all like Husker Du.

What is especially a clever arrangement is on the song "Run Run Run To The Centre Pompidou". Not only is this an interesting idea for a song, which is about the hectic pace of a vacation in Paris, but the instrumentation capture that hectic pace beautifully. Oddly enough, the bridge of this song reminds me of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds", thanks to the backup singers.

Good News For Modern Man is a CD that takes a little while to really sink in, but after several listens, certains gems start making themselves known. The standout songs for me are "Seka Knows" and "Remains To Be Seen", two midtempo numbers with thoughtful lyrics. They are about as good as any song Hart has written. Not quite on the same level but also effective is the simple acoustic tune "You Don't Have To Tell Me Now".

On the other end of the scale is the closer "Little Nemo", a curiousity dominated by piano and backwards organ loops that shows Hart trying to tackle progressive rock (!). However, it doesn't sound so much like the band Yes, as it does a Jon Anderson side project, especially with the strange keyboard ending.

Where Good News For Modern Man falls short is on a pair of songs that could have used rewrites. "A Letter From Ann Marie" seems to be Hart's attempt to write a big ballad. While the song is somewhat appealing, it is too lyrically slight to be the big number it wants to be. Also, the constant repetition of the chorus makes the song overlong and somewhat annoying at the end. The same can be said for "In A Cold Heart". This starts off very well but runs out of steam at the end.

Good News For Modern Man will no doubt please Hart fans, but I wonder if the idiosyncrancies will put off those that are not diehard fans. It lacks the urgency of his former bandmate Bob Mould's solo work, but it has its charms and some solid songwriting. Overall, this is a welcome return for Hart.

Rating: B

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